Planet Earth’s horizon stretches across this recent Solar System group portrait, seen from the southern hemisphere’s Las Campanas Observatory. Taken before dawn it traces the ecliptic with a line-up familiar to November’s early morning risers. Toward the east are bright planets Venus, Mars, and Jupiter as well as Regulus, alpha star of the constellation Leo. Of course the planets are immersed in the faint glow of zodiacal light, visible from the dark site rising at an angle from the horizon. Sometimes known as the false dawn, it’s no accident the zodiacal light and planets both lie along the ecliptic. Formed in the flattened protoplanetary disk, the Solar System’s planet’s all orbit near the ecliptic plane, while dust near the plane scatters sunlight, the source of the faint zodiacal glow.
The elegant Elephant’s Trunk Nebula winds through the emission nebula and young star cluster complex IC 1396, in the high and far off constellation of Cepheus. This composite was recorded through narrow band filters that transmit the light from ionized hydrogen, sulfur, and oxygen atoms in the region. The resulting image highlights the bright swept-back ridges that outline pockets of cool interstellar dust and gas. Such embedded, dark, tendril-shaped clouds contain the raw material for star formation and hide protostars within the obscuring cosmic dust. Nearly 3,000 light-years distant, the relatively faint IC 1396 complex covers a large region on the sky.
Image Credit & Copyright: J.C. Canonne, P. Bernhard, D. Chaplain & L. Bourgona
The BLACK EYE GALAXY is a spiral galaxy located 24 million light years from Earth and is in the constellation Coma Berenices.
It has a dark band of dust that absorbs light from nearby stars in front of the
galaxy’s bright nucleus. This is why its nicknames are “Black Eye”
or “Evil Eye” galaxy.
It is well known among amateur astronomers due to its appearance in small telescopes.
Got any questions/facts about the Black Eye Galaxy? Send me a message
and we can talk about it! Stay tuned for tomorrow’s galaxy!
The ORION nebula is a nebula located in the Milky Way Galaxy, in the constellation Orion. It is a diffuse nebula, which means that it has no defined borders. It is one of the brightest nebulae visible to the naked eye and is the closest region of massive star formation to Earth!
Astronomers have been able to identify many steps in the star formation process by observing the Orion Nebula. Neither Ptolemy or Galileo noted the Orion Nebula in their notes from observing the sky, so it is believed to think that the Stars have become brighter since then, allowing it to be visible to naked eye viewers.
The nebula is part of a larger nebula known as the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. This extends through the Orion constellation and contains Barnard’s loop, the Horsehead nebula, the Flame nebula, and some other smaller ones!
Got any other facts/questions about the Orion nebula? Send me a message and we can talk about it! Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, keep sending your suggestions!
PLUTO and the KUIPER BELT are our final stop in our journey through the solar system.
Pluto used to be a planet but is now classified as a dwarf planet. It was reclassified when astronomers had found dwarf planets in the Kuiper belt with similar size to Pluto. It has a rocky core surrounded by a water/ice mantle. Since Pluto has an elliptical orbit, when it gets closer to the Sun, the surface ice sublimates (changes from a solid directly to a gas) and rises from the atmosphere. Once it moves away from the Sun, the gas water then freezes again and it is believed that it falls back to the surface as snow. It has 5 moons in total, and its largest one Charon is very close in size to Pluto. Sometimes they are thought of as a double dwarf planet system.
The Kuiper belt is a disc shaped region beyond Neptune. It is populated with hundreds of thousands of icy bodies. Pluto is the best known of the group of larger objects. The objects are called Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) or transneptunian objects, and were discovered in 1992. The search for KBOs began in 1987. It was named after Gerard Kuiper who proposed (back in 1951) that icy bodies might lie beyond Neptune.
Similar to Neptune, it has also been calculated that there might be another planet in our solar system way beyond the orbit of the Kuiper belt. This planet has been nicknamed “Planet Nine” but in no way has been discovered yet, it has just been proposed! HERE is a link from NASA explaining this hypothetical Planet Nine.
Got any other questions/facts about Pluto and the KBOs? Send me a message and we
can talk about it!
Stay tuned for the new theme! Can anyone guess what it is?
The CRAB nebula is a supernova remnant in the constellation Taurus. It is 6500 light years from Earth and is located in the Milky Way.
It has an apparent magnitude (brightness) of 8.4, which is comparable to Saturn’s moon Titan. It isn’t visible to the naked eye, however with the right conditions, it can be seen with binoculars.
In yesterday’s post, I discussed that at the center of the Cat’s Eye Nebula there is a white dwarf. However, in this supernova remnant, there’s something different. In the center of this nebula, there’s something called Crab Pulsar- a neutron star spinning at a rate of 30.2 times per second. At these speeds, the spinning neutron star creates a lot of radiation, which ionizes the particles from the remnant supernova (which is why we see the colours!).
Since the radiation coming from the nebula is so strong, astronomers can use it to help study objects that occult (block) the nebula. An example of this is when they were studying Titon’s atmosphere. They measured the amount of radiation that was able to reach the other side (Earth!) of its atmosphere. The difference between the amount that started (the amount at the Crab Nebula) and the amount that reached Earth, told scientists about the thickness of Titans atmosphere.
Got any other facts/questions about the Crab Nebula? Send me a message and we can talk about it! Stay tuned for tomorrow, it’s the last post of week 2!
VEGA is the fifth brightest star in our night skies. It is located in the constellation Lyra and is the brightest star found in that constellation. It is relatively close to Earth, being only 25 light years away. For someone in the Northern hemisphere, like myself, Vega is visible during the summer, and for someone in the Southern hemisphere, it would be the opposite.
To astronomers, Vega is a very important star in our night sky. Around 12,000 BC, it was the north star, and will be the north star once again in the year 13, 727. Other than the Sun, Vega was the first star to be photographed and to have its spectrum recorded.
No planets have been discovered around Vega to date, but the presence of a planet cannot be ruled out. It is a possibility that there is a smaller terrestrial planet orbiting closer to the star that we have not been able to detect yet.
Vega is only 1/10 of the age of the Sun, but is 2.1 times as massive. This means that its life span will be shorter than the Suns. The more massive a star, the shorter the life span. This is because a more massive star requires a higher rate of fusion to power it. Fusion is the combination of 2 Hydrogen molecules to form a Helium molecule. This process helps create the energy necessary to make a star “shine”.
Stars are classified by using a chart called a Hertzsprung-Russel diagram. It is a 2-D graph that classifies stars based on their absolute magnitude (brightness) and their spectral type (surface temperature). Majority of the stars fall along the Main Sequence, including our Sun & Vega. The stars in the top left corner are the hottest and brightest stars, and the stars in the bottom right corner are the dimmest and coolest stars. Stars not found on the main sequence are the white dwarfs, red giants and the supergiants.
Got any other questions/facts about Vega? Send me a message and we
can talk about it! Stay tuned for tomorrows star!
The Great Nebula in Orion is a very colorful place. Visible to the unaided eye, it appears as a small fuzzy patch in the constellation of Orion. Long exposure, multi-wavelength images like this, however, show the Orion Nebula to be a busy neighborhood of young stars, hot gas, and dark dust. This digital composite features colors of visible light and infrared light taken by NASA’s orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope. The power behind much of the Orion Nebula (M42) is the Trapezium - four of the brightest stars in the nebula. Many of the filamentary structures visible are actually shock waves - fronts where fast moving material encounters slow moving gas. The Orion Nebula spans about 40 light years and is located about 1500 light years away in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun.
Image Credit & Copyright: Infrared: NASA, Spitzer Space Telescope; Visible: Oliver Czernetz, Siding Spring Obs.